The obnoxious nurse who inspired me


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Four days before my high school graduation I got a call from my dad telling me to come home.

When I arrived he told me that my grandmother was in the hospital and we had to go there in order to take her off life support.

At the emergency room we introduced ourselves to the nurse. The first thing she did was rip open the curtain to expose my grandmother. No warning. No briefing us of what to expect. Just BOOM: “Here she is, your dying relative.”

When the nurse did this I couldn’t believe how unprofessional, disrespectful, rude, obnoxious, uncaring, and heartless she was.

I believe this experience exposed my own purpose in life, which is to make a difference and to help change the lives of others. I chose the career path to become a nurse for this reason among others. I believe that every nurse and doctor should treat their patients the way they would want to be treated.

Watching how the doctors and nurses acted toward my grandmother and my family almost turned me away from the profession. But after much thought I decided I definitely wanted to be a nurse. I believe I can make a difference in someone’s life just by caring enough about them to treat them with respect and let them know that I am here to help.

Besides becoming a nurse and making a difference in patients’ lives I believe my purpose in life is to make a difference in my children’s lives. I want to teach them to be well rounded. Just like my father always says, “Knowledge is Power.”

The more you learn and know, the less dependent you are on others and the more you can do for yourself. I want to teach them that everyone deserves to be treated the same way you do, with respect.

I believe everyone has a purpose in life. And I believe my purpose in life is to make a difference in other’s lives.

“I Believe Everyone Has a Purpose In Life,” Copyright © 2009 by Rebecca Marsh. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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11 Responses to The obnoxious nurse who inspired me

  1. fmerjudio

    I don’t personally find it completely wrong for a nurse to be rude or obnoxious, as long as it’s to make a good effect on patients, like a reality check they just want to ignore. sometimes i do that to my patients, snapping them up to awareness with the truth and making them think about their situation objectively, especially if they really need it and are asking for it. i believe it actually helps them realize that they can still regain control over their lives (which they never lost, even if they think so) despite their seemingly helpless state with their health concerns. but i only do this with mentally sane patients, at least for now. my patients thank me, though, whenever i do that to them

  2. annjul76 RN

    Personally, I did not find this story inspirational. I found the tone of the story to be judgmental and self righteous. It is admirable to want to help people and I believe most nurses have that desire. However, what about that shift that you are on your feet for all 12 hours and don’t even have time to use the bathroom or eat and you have that patient who yells and swears at you, and the confused patient who says hateful things, or the non compliant patient who would rather spend his money on crack than on his blood pressure medication or the patient who is arrested by the police and then suddenly develops chest pain so he will go to the ER instead of jail and then when the police leave he is suddenly pain free and signs out against medical advice.

  3. Thom

    Though I had been interested in medicine my whole life I became a nurse at 45 years old and a good part of the reason was the opposite experience. When my mother was terminal with lung cancer we put off calling hospice for a long time because we thought of it as giving up. My wife and I were both Corrections Officers at the time, which is stressful enough, but suddenly added to it was was not only my mother’s condition but a whole host of battles I had never thought of. Try being Joe Nobody and try to navigate between pharmacy. insurance and doctor’s office, between office visits to control pain management at home for a loved one.
    Once we finally called hospice in it was like night and day. The home-care nurses were amazing; they treated her like a best friend and she lacked for nothing that was in their power to provide. For me, the constant phone battle was over and this allowed me to concentrate on mom and what she wanted to do in her final months. This care extended all the way into her final days at the care center. They treated her as if she was their own mother and her slightest need or want was taken care of immediately.
    Now, being a new nurse, I really see how big those nursing shoes are to fill! Those hospice nurses were really something special!

  4. ijmyuthm

    While the author seems to have good intentions she does come across as self righteous and the article is rather depressing. Yes, let’s all talk about the “unprofessional, disrespectful, rude, obnoxious, uncaring and heartless” nurse and tell ourselves secretly we will never ever be perceived like this. Please, if there is anything I have discovered being a nurse is that perception is everything. Does not matter how much you give to a patient whether it be your time, efforts, or your intention to “make a difference” in a person’s life(very original purpose!:) Patient perception is everything in the end. Let’s not hate on another nurse who is probably stressed out for good reasons and tell everyone that we strive to not be like him/her. we all get our day…the pt that you saved their life now having the will to complain about you buring their toast and is now deemed “obnoxious”. Nursing is stressful enough. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal.

  5. Tcohen01

    My experience was totally opposite! I have been a nurse for 4 years now. I had some interest in Nursing for several years, but had just continued with the career I had. In 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After mastectomy and chemo, I resumed my career. In 2005, I was diagnosed with Kidney cancer. For this cancer, I went for treatment to Bethesda, Maryland. During the course of surgery and recovery, I was blessed with an older nurse named “Thai”. I was so moved and impressed with the care this lovely woman gave me, I decided that if I wanted to be a nurse, now would be a good time. I entered Nursing school, and 4 years later graduated. Less than 1 year later, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer. After a 3 month hiatus with tx of chemo and mastectomy, I returned to nursing and haven’t looked back since then. My inspiration was Thai, and her wonderful care during my inpatient experience.

  6. DRuthie

    I too working as an aide on the night shift, trying to get thru the all important med surg class, worked at a hospital and came across some RN’s that let’s just say didn’t shine. On the phone all the time, reading, eating, gossiping and bossing me around when I was 3 rooms down doing something! All I came away with is quitting, and passing med surg! Yeah I am now an RN??!! And working with my team members to help the patients to a better health! After 7 years of floor work I am now a homecare hospice nurse and love it! I still have some issues with my coworkers but they are usually minor. Just keep doing what we all love to do, I till we can’t or until it isn’t fun anymore!

  7. earthlass

    I wonder…Does anyone wonder how many times you actually see a person at the end of their life and the family can not seem to let go? Even though they know this is want mom or dad wanted? Been there and seen that. It actually hurts to see it happen and you do need to build that mental wall to keep that pain out. Maybe this nurse could spot the train wreck before it happened by hitting the switch she had closest at hand. Yeah might have been a little harsh but she was able to help them avert the tragic couple of days and possibly longer. Glad she was able to do that and inspire someone to learn to be something a little better.

  8. january64

    Wow! I DID find this inspirational, and the “incident” unfortunately, all too common. Nor do I believe it is EVER acceptable to be “rude or obnoxious to make a good effect on patients” (grammar??) I don’t feel this was self-righteous at all…. when was the last time you had a loved one in the hospital, facility, etc.? How would YOU like to be treated – with some courtesy and consideration, or as just another irritation of the day??? If you consider yourself a professional, I hope you look up the definition of Empathy and how to utilize it in your everyday life….

  9. tjs

    The reason I became a nurse: When I was a child I broke my arm. My mom rushed me to the ER. The original nurse that was to take care of me tried to get me in a wheel chair to take me to the treatment area. She never raised the foot pedals. My mom said hold on let me put the foot pedals up, but the nurse grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back. I of course fell and hit my arm on the chair. This was the first time I had ever heard my mother cuss (I won’t say exactly what she said), but the gist of it was to get away from her daughter. Another nurse happened to witness this as he was walking by. He immediately stopped ordered her away from me. He then picked me up and put me in the wheel chair. He stayed with me the whole time I was there. He was even the one who put my first cast on. He is the one who inspired me to become a nurse. To this day I can’t remember his name, but I do remember how he treated me and my mother. To this man,who ever you are, I would like to say thank you.

    I’ve been a nurse for 3 years now and I love what I do. For me it is about taking care of people and treating them the way he treated me and my mom.